“I have a soul-tingling feeling that this new Order is the watershed of a new era of spirituality on earth—perhaps difficult to see en masse during our time, but a clear demarcation from the perspective of those in the future.”
—from a recent letter by Swami Kriyananda
Swami Kriyananda has been a direct disciple for over sixty years of the great yoga master, Paramhansa Yogananda. In this book, he introduces a new approach to the quest for God-realization that speaks to modern seekers. Demystifying the mystical, Kriyananda presents practical techniques, attitudes, and life directions that lead to inner freedom and joy.
Whatever your level of spiritual interest or commitment, you will find A Renunciate Order for the New Age a must-read to give you an understanding of where religion is headed in the future. It launches a new era for people everywhere who want to declare their devotion to high, spiritual ideals.
- My Intention
- The Dilemma
- Institutions and the Individual
- Samsara vs. Renunciation
- Men, Women
- The Main Delusions, Including the “Greatest” One
- A Step at a Time
- Transcending the Ego
- The Sex Issue Revisited
- The Stages to Sannyas
- The Habit
- The Widespread Need for Renunciation
- A Need for Proper Education
- A Vision of the Future
- The Vows of Renunciation
- An Invitation to Swamis
About the Author
Renunciation has ceased to command the respect it once had. Spirituality is on the rise, but many convents and monasteries stand empty. What people want now is a path where Spirit and Nature work in harmony, not in opposition to one another.
Timeless principles, however, are not created by popular vote. Truth simply Is.
Renunciation remains the heart and soul of the spiritual life. The problem is not with the principle itself, but the way it has been misunderstood and wrongly practiced. Renunciation has become defined by what you give up, or, even worse, by what God takes away.
True renunciation is not a loss, it is an expansion to Infinity. Joy and renunciation are two sides of the same coin. To suppress the ego is not the same as transcending it.
The origin of this book is auspicious. A miracle healing was needed before it could be written.
There has always been something mysterious about Swami Kriyananda’s health. His body seems to be a battleground where the forces of Light and Dark meet. The battle is not about him personally, but for the work his guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, has commissioned him to do. The only way to describe it is “Satan tries to stop him.” Often his most creative periods are
paired with enormous physical challenges.
Swamiji cheerfully dismisses the trials of his body as merely the tapasya needed to establish his guru’s work in this world. (Swamiji means respected teacher; tapasya is a Sanskrit word meaning both austerity and devotion.)
Still, the effort has taken its toll. No physical body lasts forever. It is of no consequence to Swamiji whether he lives or dies; long ago he surrendered his life to his guru.
Especially since he moved to India in 2003, Swamiji has had one health crisis after another. Often he has told his Indian audiences, “I’m not going to live much longer,” hoping to inspire them to act quickly to build the work while he was still there to help them. Certain “readings,” including the ancient Book of Bhrigu, implied that his eighty-third birthday, May 19, 2009, might be his last.
Two days after that birthday, he was scheduled to fly from India to Europe. That morning he had some symptoms of a stroke: difficulty breathing, speaking, and so weak he had to be fed like a baby.
Ordinarily, no one would travel in such a condition. But persevering against obstacles has always strengthened Swamiji rather than weakened him. Once a project or transition is completed, usually health returns.
But this time it didn’t happen. Even weeks later, at home now in Ananda Assisi, the crisis continued. Rarely had he been so weak for so long. Someone had to be with him twenty-four hours a day.
It was June 6; I was on the afternoon shift. A few friends were coming over in the late afternoon, so when Swamiji went to take a nap, he asked me to wake him in time for their coming.
At 3:00 he was still sound asleep. Reluctantly I woke him and helped him sit up on the side of the bed. Traditionally, swamis wear orange, but I chose
for him a blue shirt instead, thinking the color would lift his spirits. As I was doing up the buttons I said casually, “This blue is so exquisite. You should change the swami color from orange to blue.”
With great seriousness, he replied, “I am thinking of doing that.”
I helped him into the living room, then went back to get something from the closet. When I returned a moment later, he was stretched out on the couch, hands folded across his heart, looking up at the ceiling. I thought he might be dead. In fact, that may be when the miracle happened.
To my great relief, he began to speak, introducing the ideas that are now this book: A Renunciate Order for the New Age. After a few moments, he paused, then quietly, with great force, declared, “This is what Satan
was trying to stop.”
From that moment he began to get well.
In the evening he called a group together to talk about the new order. Already he had written most of the first chapter of this book. Just hours before he couldn’t button his own shirt. Now he was launching a revolution in renunciation for the New Age.
“I entered a state of intense bliss,” Swamiji said later, about this sudden change. “I told Divine Mother, ‘I’m ready to go and I am happy to stay, if You have more work for me to do here.’ It didn’t matter at all to me. When I came out of that state, I began to get well.” When he left Italy a few weeks later, he didn’t even bring his cane.
“I feel ageless,” Swamiji says. “I don’t identify with myself in any way now. It seems God has extended my life in order to do this work. It was a miracle healing.”
In the forty years that I have known Swamiji, his prodigious creativity has been nothing less than awe-inspiring. Books, music, communities, schools,
retreats—a spiritual network that spans the globe. Often in my enthusiasm for some particular expression I have been tempted to declare: “This is it! This is his spiritual legacy.”
Of course, to say that is like defining the ocean by what you can see from the beach.
Still, folly though it may be, I dare to say that, in its cumulative effect, A Renunciate Order for the New Age may be one of Swamiji’s most important contributions to the bringing in of a New Age. For it gives to truth seekers everywhere the courage, the clarity, and the
way to open their hearts to God.
Chapter One: My Intention
My intention in these pages is to propose a new model of renunciation for this age of energy. Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, my paramguru (guru’s guru), described it as such, giving it its ancient Sanskrit name, Dwapara. Having explained this matter already in several of my other writings (notably in Religion in the New Age), I’d rather proceed here at once to my main subject: renunciation in this age of energy.
The monastic order of swamis in India was founded, or rather reorganized, many centuries ago by the first, or adi, Swami Shankara. The age in which he lived was known as Kali, or dark (literally, “black”) Yuga (age). It was far more materialistic than the age in which we live today. Shankara wrote rules and ideals for his renunciate order that were appropriate for those times, when society faced a different set of realities.
People weren’t nearly so mobile then as they are today. Travel, by present-day standards, was very
slow. There were no motorized vehicles, no airplanes, no steamships. People’s mental horizons, too, were
narrowly circumscribed. To accomplish anything, one’s self-definition, too, had to be narrow.
To find God, or to realize the Divine Presence in one’s life, was almost impossible for those whose lives were not specifically devoted to spiritual progress. Those who lived in the world, who engaged in profit, and particularly who were married and had families, simply could not expand their horizons to include the
In the Christian world, renunciates sometimes went so far as to have themselves walled up in cells, with only little openings through which food was passed. To find God, renunciation of all distractions had, in fact, to be complete, for every attachment to the world needed to be shattered. In India, renunciates were told not to find enjoyment in anything, even in a beautiful sunset. They were expected to go by foot from place to place; never to stay in one place more than three days; and be careful not to regard anyone or any place as their own. “Neti, neti”—literally, “Not this; not that”—was the common practice for the spiritual seeker. It was a way of rejecting everything in the manifested universe as false.
In both East and West it was common—indeed, the practice was honored—for monks to beg their food from house to house; to accept only enough food for one meal; and to carry no money in their purse.
Jesus Christ was a renunciate in this sense. So also was St. Francis of Assisi. And so also have been many Christian saints, who have dedicated themselves to “the imitation of Christ.” St. Francis used to say that he was wedded to “Lady Poverty.” Paramhansa Yogananda, who spoke of St. Francis as his “patron saint,” said, “I prefer the term, ‘Lady Simplicity.’” Sri Yogananda’s view of renunciation was much more moderate than what was practiced in Kali Yuga. The old way had been right for those days, when mankind’s awareness was much narrower. Kali Yuga was a time of rigid dogmas amounting to dogmatism, rigid social codes, and a rigid concept of matter itself, which was considered fixed, solid, and essentially immutable.
In modern times, matter has been found to consist of subtle energy vibrations. People’s thinking is more fluid, more intuitive, more centered in principle than in outer forms.
The swami order (unlike Catholic monasticism) did not include women. Indeed, it would not have been appropriate for women in those days to roam the roads freely, as swamis were supposed to do.
Nowadays, although lip service is still given to the ancient practices, most swamis do in fact own a little money and even property. They are not criticized for doing so, provided they use their possessions for the benefit of others. Swamis no longer live in stark poverty. In keeping with our times, their renunciation is, outwardly speaking, more moderate. Inwardly, it is more focused on right attitudes. In this age, mental discipline is understood to be more important than outer, physical austerities.
At the same time, the need of the hour is to deepen this attitude. Freedom from anger, hate, pride, and desire is more important than renunciation of outer, material involvements.
Most of the ancient restrictions are viewed today in the light rather of sacred tradition than of actual reality. Many swamis, if they own property, emphasize the importance of inward non-attachment to it. Few renunciates today wander the highways, where they’d anyway face the risk of being run over by a motor vehicle, or asphyxiated by motor fumes. Most modern-day renunciates dwell in ashrams like their Western counterparts, who live in monasteries. When they travel, they usually go by car, train, ship, or airplane. Were they to beg their food from door to door, they’d very probably be treated as mere panhandlers
Chapter continues . . .
“[The Nayaswami Order] gave me the opportunity to make a commitment
that I have yearned to make formally for a long time. . . . Already I feel my life changing and my consciousness expanding.”
“I consider joining the new Renunciate Order to be one of the most important steps in my life. . . . The vow has brought more color, dimension, and texture to the tapestry of my spiritual efforts.”
“These vows can be taken by a person of any religious faith, uniting our efforts to bless and uplift every being on this planet.”
“Swami Kriyananda has opened a door that I never thought would be available. . . . Since taking vows I have felt more acutely God’s grace in my life. What great blessings have come!”
“Nayaswami Kriyananda has given all of us the spiritual tools and guidance in this new Renunciate Order to transcend our little egos. I have felt a deep connection to the spiritual power, magnetism,
and bliss behind this initiation.”
“Since taking the Tyagi vow, I feel a sense of contentment and freedom. There is no need to worry anymore, but only to keep trying to be ever more centered in God.”
“I feel such joy that keeps me connected to the Divinity within.”
“After I took my . . . vows, . . I felt a real energy shift in my core. My heart feels open all of the time, and I accept judgment by others dispassionately as given to me by God for my spiritual growth and highest good. My only goal in life now is to please God alone.”
“Since taking the . . . vow, I feel more relaxed and self-accepting, yet with a more sincere dedication to finding God and serving the Guru’s work as best as I can.”
“There is an ever-new, ever-increasing inner joy that I have been able to tap into at will since that very special day. . . . I’ll never forget . . . the power and the softness during the ceremony.
Just thinking about that magical, mystical moment brings tears to my eyes.”
“Religion often begins young, and ends up old and grey, but this Nayaswami Order has been colorfully created by the ever-free and fresh spirit of Swami Kriyananda.”
“The renunciate vows given by Swami Kriyananda have greatly helped me re-focus on the Divine Goal. It’s like finding a new, more detailed roadmap. I have felt very spiritually encouraged by the
vow, which I embrace with all my heart.”
“Over time I began to notice that I was more settled, joy was my frequent companion. I felt empowered to change, and became aware of a strength in the core of my being.”
“During the ceremony . . . tears filled my eyes. I felt reverence and gratitude as well as the strength and conviction that living my life for God is truly the only reason I’m here on this planet.”
“My experience during the ceremony was one of extraordinary lightness. I felt a blessing coming from another plane of existence and an assurance that this was right for me. I knew that God was
there to help me, and that it would be no burden.”
“Since formally taking the Nayaswami vow . . . I can sincerely say that I feel changed forever, uplifted, and strengthened in my determination to live for God alone.”
“The words of the vows of the Order are imbued with spiritual power. I have found that my vow as a Nayaswami is helping me untangle my Self from the post of ego. I find that I am ever more
focused on God in my heart.”
“My heart is filled with joy at the vast potential for freedom in this sacred order.”
“Taking the Nayaswami vow has shone a spotlight in my consciousness upon who I really am, what my only purpose in life is: to seek God and to serve as His channel of blessing to all.”
“This vow has a power that inspires greater devotion than I have known before. As it has strengthened my will, it has lifted my spirit as well.”
“The evening I took my vows, I felt such joy in my heart, the deepest joy I have ever experienced. I feel God’s presence guiding and uplifting me, and I know [it all] comes from God’s hand.”
“The new Renunciate Order has given energy and focus to my spiritual life and deepened my commitment to God and Guru.”
“The vows . . . brought more strength and power into my life, along with a feeling that God and Guru were closer than ever. Since the vows, I feel that same strength within me, lifting me up, encouraging me to meet all challenges that come in life.”
“The bliss that radiated from Swamiji as he initiated each person, and the deep love in his eyes for each soul who came before him, were indescribable. One felt the perfection of God’s love, and
the radiance and deep spiritual vibrations that are emanating from it now are touching everyone.”
“While [the vows] are uniquely personal on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment level, their power is greatly magnified by the fact that they speak to souls of any path who want to live for God Alone.”
“In my mind I was not sure that I was qualified to take the Vow of Complete Renunciation, but my heart told me it was the right thing to do. . . . Soon [after taking the vow] I was awed by waves of powerful blessings flowing in all aspects of my life.”
“What the Nayaswami Renunciate vows mean to me is the freedom to seek the deepest relationship with God of which I am capable.”
“There is an amazing grace that comes with the taking of this vow.”
“Every morning when I review the vow and dedicate myself anew to trying to bring these beautiful ideals more and more into my daily life, I feel a growing happiness and freedom.”
“I feel a much deeper devotion, and feel God’s presence in my life more deeply. I love the freedom I have felt in releasing so many . . . attachments . . . to things and the results of my actions.”
“I woke up out of a deep sleep, sat up in bed and announced . . . ‘I’m going to take . . . the Nayaswami vow!’ The whole focus of my life switched instantaneously and dramatically. My consciousness shifted. Everything around me seemed brighter and clearer.”
“Swamiji’s inspiration to start this new Order in [St. Francis’s Assisi] was so perfect. This is not a sectarian order, but a guideline that all devotees can use for understanding and deepening their own journey along the spiritual path.”
“I believe this ceremony has [the] power to transform lives.”
“There is tremendous spiritual power in the Nayaswami Order, and people have experienced deep blessings that have completely transformed their consciousness after inwardly embracing the vows of the Order. . . . Virtually every sincere seeker who has joined the Order has reported . . . transformative changes in his life.”